OUSC presidental debate: A clash between practicality and ambition

Oakland University Student Congress (OUSC) Student Body President candidates Adeline Perhogan and Jordan Tolbert faced off over Google Meet on Monday, March 9.

With OU Board of Trustees Student Liaison Benjamin Byrne as the moderator, the debate began at noon with the candidates delivering opening remarks. Perhogan, the current Student Activities Funding Board (SAFB) chair for Ethan Bradley’s OUSC executive board, began by explaining her platform.

“Our main initiatives are transparency, campus involvement, health and wellness, and emergency support services,” Perhogan said. “The highlights of our initiatives include hosting monthly student concerns forums, having a text remind system, hosting mainstages and tabling, streamlining online learning, partnering with the rec center and Graham Health Center to provide resources and events for students to promote healthy living, and to contribute to additional relief funding, such as mitigating the cost of textbooks through Student Congress-funded scholarships.”

Perhogan stated she chose the platform on the belief she could complete it within the one-year term of OUSC President.

Tolbert, the current research and review chair for the OUSC Legislature and a resident assistant, followed with her platform.

“My platform is very ambitious because we are,” Tolbert said. “The main reason I am running is to address the minority graduation rate. Currently Black students at OU finish their degrees at a rate of 21%. Additionally, Asian students finish their degrees at a rate of 38% and Hispanic students at 48%. Their white counterparts finish their degrees at a rate of 50%.”

To remedy the lower minority graduation rates and make life at OU easier for first generation students, Tolbert aims to create and expand financial aid literacy programs, academic support programs and scholarships. Reinstating the Bear Bus, making OUSC more representative of the student body, making the campus more inclusive for neurodivergent students and students with disabilities, supporting the organic garden and taking measures to improve campus safety are other goals Tolbert has.

“We want to ensure there are no barriers to prevent students from making the most of their time here and utilizing everything OU has to offer,” Tolbert said.

When asked about how OU should handle the suspected closing days of COVID-19, the candidates did not have views that strayed too far from one another. Perhogan said to have in-person classes recorded and posted online for students who could not attend and to maintain mask wearing and social distancing on campus. Tolbert said to provide vaccine information to ease skepticism toward vaccines and maintaining wearing masks and social distancing on campus.

Regarding how they would handle the relationship between students and faculty, both candidates want to continue the student concerns forums and hold meetings with students and forums. Tolbert mentioned she would like to have personal conversations with students and faculty, and Perhogan promoted the student concerns hotline.

Asked about what their biggest weaknesses are, Perhogan cited she is a “workaholic” while Tolbert cited the vastness of her campaign goals.

“I believe that if you are passionate about everything that you want to get done, you can get it all done or get a majority of it done,” Tolbert said. “And if not, you are setting a precedent for people to continue your ideas and to build upon what you have done.”

In regards to a question about why their campaign goals are better than their opponent’s, Perhogan stated that she did not believe her platform was better than Tolbert’s and that she was open to collaboration with Tolbert to combine policy goals. 

“We want all voices to be heard,” Perhogan said. “There are many ways that we can achieve these goals and I would like to explore the pathways and figure out what is the best way we can accomplish our goals and what is the best way for the students on campus.”

Tolbert sees the ambition of her platform as the reason her’s is better.

“I think Adeline and Annabella [Jankowski, vice presidential candidate] have great things in their platform, but most of them are about continuing to do things, keeping things the same and expanding things that are already there,” Tolbert said. “I feel like our platform is more about systemic issues and more about change … I feel like those are more pressing issues than some of the things that have been put on my opponent’s platform.”

Students can watch the full presidential debate and the vice presidential debates on the OUSC’s YouTube channel. Voting for OUSC Student Body President, Vice President and legislators begins Friday, March 12 and ends on March 19.